Yesterday Sir Alex Ferguson said he wasn’t planning to retire anytime soon from managerial duties at Manchester United, and collectively, United fans around the globe breathed a sigh of relief.
Without Ferguson, United would be a very different picture. The manager joined the club on November 6 1986, and when he managed the Red Devils to a 2-0 loss to Oxford United in his first match, no fan or pundit had any idea that 25 years later Ferguson would still be going strong, and considered one of the best managers in United’s history.
Ferguson can now boast 12 Barclays Premier League titles, five FA Cups, four League Cups, 10 Charity Shields, two Champions Leagues and one Super Cup trophy under his belt for United.
The manager will indeed be irreplaceable if he ever does decide that the time has come to finish his career, but Ferguson may not have been entirely honest when he said he couldn't think of anyone who could take over the post at Old Trafford.
On the same day as insisting there wasn't anyone who could replace him, funnily enough, Ferguson defended the one man who may be able to fill his boots, Jose Mourinho.
"I don't find anything wrong with his enthusiasm," Ferguson said. "When I was younger I showed more enthusiasm on the bench too. I was always gesticulating and directing.
"It's Mourinho's nature to be agitated. When I saw [him] run up and down the touchline at Old Trafford when he coached Porto, I said to myself, 'Did I also use to do that?'
“People recognise his enthusiasm. The fans understand that he's fighting for them and for the squad."
And that’s exactly the kind of manager United would be looking for if Ferguson were to leave; someone who can handle the pressure of being one of the world’s top clubs, can deal with the reaction when they don’t get results, can get inside the heads of their opponents and really rattle them.
Mourinho isn’t one of the managers Ferguson described as ‘no longer in a job’ when discussing a possible replacement. In fact, during his time as a manager, Mourinho has not won as many trophies, but he’s won the Champions League with two different clubs (Inter Milan and Porto), and has trophies in the English, Portugese, Spanish and Italian leagues. His achievements may not be as plentiful as Ferguson’s, but he has proven he can cut it in multiple styles of football; something that Ferguson hasn’t done.
And the controversy that surrounds Mourinho is what puts him on the brink of being a perfect replacement for Ferguson; both can create a situation where their team feels like they are against the whole world, and only those in their close-knit circle are friends and can be trusted. It's a tactic many of the great teams in all sports have used to get ahead; push your backs against the wall and you'll put in a performance you didn't think you were capable of, just to prove all the nay-sayers wrong. Both Mourinho and Ferguson know how to get this mentality, and the best example of Mourinho doing so is surely his actions as Real Madrid manager.
The situation surrounding Ferguson’s retirement is obviously a long way off, but no pundit or fan could surely find any person better suited to the position than Mourinho. How often does this happen in football? When Carlo Ancelotti was sacked by Chelsea this season, multiple targets were discussed for Roman Abramovich to choose. When Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal, countless playmakers were considered as being capable of pulling the slack in the midfield.
But when Ferguson leaves United, there will only be one name being discussed.